Asude: Hello Edwin, we’ve been following your films especially via Fallout Media for a long time. So, thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to chat with us! We’d like to get to know you better so, let’s get started with where you are from and how you get started with filmmaking!
Edwin: I was born in Dublin, Ireland, 1983. I now reside in Hong Kong. My family bought our very first digital camcorder in 1999 when I was 16. I remember it was a Sharp MiniDV camcorder that shot 720x576 resolution! That was my first interest in video and filmmaking and that year I was inspired by film such as The Matrix and Fight Club. My friends at school then decided to make a short film to enter into a student film competition and our film won first prize. Since then, we always did some small video projects in school.
A: That’s an interesting and encouraging way to start your filmmaking adventure as a kid! After that, what had been the video project you earned your first money?
E: Although I did some video work when I was a full-time journalist in the mid-2000s, my first shoot under my current current brand, Fallout Media, was a behind-the-scenes fashion shoot for a popular women’s magazine. I started the Fallout Media brand in 2010 and my main camera back then was the Canon 7D.
A: I personally love the behind-the-scenes fashion shoots! Also, what’s your background in videography?
E: I never studied videography per se - I trained to be a journalist in university and had some minimal broadcast TV training. Because I started filmmaking earlier in school, I had a distinct advantage over other students. Back then, video was not something as easy to get into compared to nowadays.
A: You’re right, that’s certainly a privilege! Let’s talk about your filmmaking style a little bit, how would you describe it?
E: I would say my style is always changing, but because of my journalism background I tend to veer towards anything real-life or documentary-driven. Once I find a topic, subject or storyline to work with I just figure out what kind of filmmaking style is relevant to it. The “sweet spot” is to pair amazing visuals with genuine, real-life storytelling. And because there are many companies like edelkrone that have popped up in the last few years, offering professional equipment that would’ve otherwise not existed or were too expensive for beginner level filmmakers, it’s given us more opportunity to experiment with different filmmaking techniques. I remember when I first tried out motion time-lapses by building a DIY rig. But now with the Motion Kit for example it’s easier than ever. You could say I’m a “jack-of-all-trades” filmmaker. Up until this point of my career I wouldn’t like to pigeonhole myself. I just love the act of filmmaking. That comes with advantages and disadvantages, I suppose.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
A: We are a fan of your productions like The Spirit of Noh, Time in Tibet, Mission to Myanmar, Verax. And, we’re aware that each of these productions requires a different type of preparation but what are the preparations you make before you begin filming in general?
E: My usual habit is to always pack my gear the day before. That way I don’t have to fuss over anything before I leave for the shoot. I have a big white board I use for to-do lists and I would write down all the gear I need, and then tick them off one-by-one as I pack. I used to serve in the military, so I think myself as very disciplined when packing and knowing where everything is at any stage. You could call me a “pack mule”!
I’d say a third of my work in any year would be overseas shoots, both professionally or personal projects. For example, my latest personal project is my Japanese Artisan Series: I shoot everything solo in Japan so I can only bring very limited amount of equipment. Good planning and preparation is paramount. For my last film in the series, I made sure to pack my new Motion Kit and had to figure out the best way to transport everything I needed.
A: So, I see that the portability is a must for you when it comes to equipment preparation. Also, check-lists always work! That’s an excellent pro tip. So, what’s the best advice you've ever been given?
E: Probably not related to filmmaking, but I’ve always followed Mark Twain’s “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
A: Since your productions require for you to bring a limited number of equipment, do you prefer buying or renting your filmmaking equipment and what’s the equipment you generally bring to a set?
E: In most cases I already own the equipment I need. I would rent anything particularly specialised - something that I thought wasn’t worth investing in at this point. If say, I’m working on a typical branded content video/film, it really depends on the client’s budget. If it’s a one-camera job, my typical kit is similar to ENG kit: Camera, lenses, lights, microphones, and tripod. When other production companies or directors hire me for their own projects, they would hire me for any one of my skills such as cinematographer, gimbal operator, motion time-lapse producer etc. I’ve had a few directors hire me because I own the edelkrone Motion Kit - the most recent time was a project for a popular Food Delivery company. I had to take some dynamic closeups of food dishes.
A: It’s an invaluable feedback for us, thank you! So, after you’re all done with filming, what software do you use for post-production?
E: I use Adobe Creative Cloud for everything, but just started using DaVinci Resolve for color correction.
A: You’re an independent filmmaker, the Head of Fallout Media and the Media Director at Sight to Sky sighttosky.org. As being someone this experienced, what would be the best piece of advice you could give to other filmmakers?
E: Nowadays in this digital age, it’s getting harder and harder for filmmakers to stand out. The barriers to entry have lowered thanks to technology and the internet, but it’s getting more difficult to find a voice. New filmmakers can get overly attached to their immediate influencers and try to replicate them. It’s not wrong to do so, but I believe at the end of the day each filmmaker should try to find their own niche, play on their existing strengths and take advantage of it. Try something that’s not been done before! (or at least not done well) Another piece of advice is relevant to people in the commercial video industry: Over the years in dealing with a wide range of clientele, I’ve learned that the best way to deal with them is to treat each client like a child. I nearly always assume these people have almost zero understanding of how a video production works. Especially those clients who are not in the creative industry. I will explain to them the production flow with simple step-by-steps, even about things which may seem very obvious. Providing them a production brief or storyboard is also ideal to better manage both sides’ expectations. I also provide a production agreement/terms&conditions contract which they need to sign. That way, if anything goes wrong or the clients’ expectations differ in the end, you can have the contract to fall back on. Think of it as building your own safety net. This is provided, of course, if the filmmaker operates on an expected professional level. I’ve heard stories of younger or inexperienced filmmakers who get bogged down by unreasonable client requests; being taken advantage of; or taking up a project that’s way beyond their capacity because they failed to understand what the client wanted. Videos and filmmaking can really be incredibly complex and subjective - way more so than photography I always tell people. Like most things, doing enough prep work will go a long way.
A: That’s what I’m talking about: a real world advise from a real world director! Let’s talk a little bit about your accomplishments. Have ever received an award before?
E: The last film-related award I won was in 2014 for “The Good Story” film competition in Singapore for my short documentary about a health NGO in Myanmar called “Mission to Myanmar”. I’ve received other accolades such as being featured on the official GoPro channel for my “Time in Tibet” film, and viral status for my film “Verax” about Edward Snowden’s escape in Hong Kong which was completed in less than 7 days.
A: Congratulations! And, what do you think about the future of filmmaking with the technology is advancing so fast in particular mainly in the perspective for new filmmakers & videographers entering the industry?
E: If I could use the rise of Instagram as an example: The technical quality of visual images is becoming better and better. Any new filmmaker, videographer or video blogger or whatever can make reasonably good images out of affordable cameras nowadays. But, because the playing field is getting more and more leveled, it’s harder for new filmmakers and videographers to get recognition maybe. I hear it everywhere people saying our attention spans are getting shorter - how long do we truly look at an image on Instagram? Much less films and videos? Filmmakers and videographers nowadays not only need to care about technical competencies but should also take time and effort to find their creative voices - what is it that they want to achieve with these skills? Filmmaking shouldn’t just be treated as a mere ‘craft’. Videos, in my opinion, are the most powerful format to tell a story and it’s also a big responsibility in a way. You can control what the audiences sees and hears - what shots, soundbites or edits you include in your final product. You may have a handle on all the technical skills, but it’s equally if not more important to train and test your creative limits as well. That is, try something you’ve never done before and ignore the naysayers.
A: That might be one of the most important things to consider if you’re in search of success in this industry! Tell us Edwin, what’s your biggest ambition for the future?
E: I would just like to be able to always keep doing what I’m doing. I’ve been blessed for having the opportunities to film such a large variety of subjects during my career. Unlike many typical jobs in the first world, as a filmmaker I’m able to approach different walks of life I otherwise would’ve never been able to; travel the world; and perhaps to be a little self-centered, I’m able to put my name out there.